An enjoyable tale of a storybook season.

AFTER THE MIRACLE

THE LASTING BROTHERHOOD OF THE '69 METS

A fond remembrance of a legendary baseball team and the teammates who kept in touch throughout the ensuing decades.

On Oct. 16, 1969, the New York Mets defeated the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles to win the World Series. Playing in right field for those Mets was Shamsky (The Magnificent Seasons: How the Jets, Mets, and Knicks Made Sports History and Uplifted a City and the Country, 2016), who—along with sportswriter Sherman (Kings of Queens: Life Beyond Baseball with the ’86 Mets, 2016, etc.)—offers a narrative of that season and later memories anchored by the teammates’ 2016 trip to visit ailing pitching ace Tom Seaver. On paper, the 1969 Mets were average. Outfielder Cleon Jones finished third in the National League in batting average, yet no one on the team hit more than 26 home runs or drove in more than 76 runs. The team succeeded because of two main factors: the guiding hand of their manager, Gil Hodges (“Sixty-nine would never have happened if not for Gil Hodges,” says Jones), and the fact that these Mets, in the words of first baseman and World Series MVP Donn Clendenon, “epitomized the word team.” Thus Shamsky, who hit .300 that season, split time in right field with Ron Swoboda, who made a key catch in Game 4 of the World Series. Neither Clendenon nor Swoboda had played a single game in the National League Championship Series. The narrative of the season itself, which takes up two-thirds of the book, is informative and entertaining, and Shamsky effectively places the team’s magical year within the social and political contexts of 1969, including the moon landing, the Vietnam War (shortstop Bud Harrelson missed time to fulfill his military obligation), and the now-all-but-forgotten rioting in York, Pennsylvania. Moreover, the author persuasively argues that the team helped unify New Yorkers during a turbulent time. However, the reunion itself is somewhat anticlimactic, and Shamsky probably overstates his case that the ’69 Mets inspired the nation as a whole.

An enjoyable tale of a storybook season.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7651-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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